Holden Colorado LTZ Graphite vs VW Amarok TDI Canyon - Another GC


No, not the Gold Coast where the Commonwealth Games played out recently, but Graphite Canyon, an imaginary place where two new limited edition utes might play

Words: Peter Louisson   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
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It’s no longer a surprise that the consistently best selling individual models in New Zealand are not SUVs but utes. Ranger and Hilux duke it out for top billing, followed by Triton, Colorado and Navara. What’s interesting is the increase in sales of 2WD utes, or more specifically, rear-drive utes.

It reminds of the growth in city dwelling SUVs that are front-drive only. Holden reckons that in the past five years sales of 4x2 pick-ups have trebled from 5000 to almost 15,000 in 2017. And it’s easy to understand why; they’re just as practical as their 4WD brethren and in the case of the limited edition Colorado Graphite you see here, they have just as much tow, rated at 3.5 tonnes.

Just don’t expect miracles when hauling a big boat up a steep, wet, moss-lined boat ramp. We took ours a little bit off-road and on some gravel surfaces where it fared well enough, but compared with the AWD Amarok Canyon, another limited edition model, it isn’t off-road credible, despite the decent ride height and semi-dual purpose Dueler rubber.

We like the Holden exterior, the newer design, but others really like the squared off look of the VW.

Think of the Graphite as a dressy all-road ute, ideal for doing the myriad weekend jobs, only without all-terrain ability suggested by the looks. And plenty don’t need that, especially if there’s $11k off the bottom line. With a name like Graphite you might expect it to come just in a dark silver colour (Satin Steel Grey) but it’s also available in White and Black. The name, it turns out, refers to the blackening of various bits, like wheel arch flares, mirror caps, rims, and windows.

The underpinnings are familiar, built as it is on a 4x2 LTZ Crew Cab, and the Graphite model is limited to 100 units for New Zealand. Powering it is a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that’s up for 147kW of power and 500Nm of torque, the output grounded via a six-speed auto only. Holden reckons there’s $10,000 of added value in this limited edition model which actually costs less than its progenitor ($50,588 versus $51,990 for LTZ two-wheel drive auto). Both include three years of free servicing.

On top of the standard fare which includes MyLink infotainment via an eight-inch colour touchscreen (incorporates Sat Nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), along with high-res rear view camera, plus LED taillights and DRLs, the exterior gets a blackened sports bar and similarly hued tubular side steps. Inside, there’s full leather trim, in graphite natch, with perforated inserts, and special headrests with Graphite logo.

Aside from auto headlights and seven airbags, the safety fitout includes front and rear sonar, forward collision and lane departure warnings, and tyre pressure monitoring. Other items of note include power folding exterior mirrors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, and single-zone air. The windows open and close en masse at the push of a button, great in hot weather.

How’s it go then? Very well indeed, as it happens. It’s only ever utterly relaxed. Laden with a fridge and other Easter weekend gear, the ride is amongst the best I’ve experienced in the class. It manages the big ruts and the small ripples with equal ability and feels almost as adept when unladen. Helping are the big 265/60R18 tyres, the Duelers also giving it decent dry road grip.

Being rear-drive the ESP chimes in a bit earlier than the AWD alternatives but this can deal to twisting seal roads quite convincingly. It steers well which helps. On gravel, it just wants to step out when you gas it through corners but the electronics rein in all that malarkey. The engine is muscular. So there are only the six gears but with 500Nm on tap at 2000rpm, and almost as many at 1500rpm, half a dozen cogs is enough.

There are no driving modes and nor are they missed. The missus reckoned it sounded a bit tractor-like and she has a point but it doesn’t half perform well, getting to 100 in 9sec flat and an overtake is dusted in 7sec, a half second better than the heavier 4x4 Colo. The way it hauls in top is gratifying too, and the auto shifts efficiently. Being a lugger it’s good on gas, cruising on the open road at 7.0L per 100km and the long term average is under 10L/100km, including town running.

Atop all that it looks the part. The interior isn’t quite the match of some, visually, but seats last the distance, visibility is good and rear seat space is generous, even for adults. If the default Kiwi pick-ups don’t suit you for some reason, we’d suggest a drive of the Colorado, especially the Graphite. It’s one that seems to do it all rather well.

You save $11k by not opting for AWD, so you can spend some of that on accessorising, given there are now 77 items available. Top of our list would be the tray liner.

Grand Canyon?

Mention of AWD brings us neatly onto the other special we drove recently, the other half of the GC, Volkswagen’s Amarok Canyon. It’s not the first use of this model name, the original debuting in 2013 distinguished by a roofbar full of spotlights and its Copper Orange paint job.. Now there’s a new one, based on the 4WD Sportline/Highline pick-ups. Since we last reported on the eight-speed auto Amarok 2.0 TDI in a Nov 2012 comparison, nothing much has changed mechanically, though there has been a mild facelift with modest changes inside (new seats, instruments) and outside (new grille, wheels).

The two top 2.0 TDIs cost $65,990, and atop their specification the new Canyon adds some visual treats like Honey Orange metallic paint, and contrasting matte black styling features (like wheel arch overriders). There’s a sports bar on the back, and tubular side steps like on Graphite, these also in black, while inside there’s special upholstery, a mix of leather and velour, with matching two-tone safety belts, and upgrades for the infotainment (Nav Discover Media) along with Multifunction Display Premium.

Topping it off are bi-xenon headlights, LED DRLs, cargo lighting and 19-inch Milford design alloy wheels. Figure also on front fog lamps with cornering function, PDC both ends with rear view camera, and dual zone air. All these additional bits add $4k to the bottom line $69,990). Our particular machine also had an optional locking roller blind over the tray which adds a level of security but removes about 30cm of potential load space up front, up high.

As to load bays, VW claims the biggest and it’s a touch larger all round than the Colorado’s tray. The space between wheel arches is pallet sized. That said, we managed to fit three old pallets atop a load of tip-bound rubbish on the Colorado. Just saying.

On space, in the rear, the Holden edges the VW for legroom but the rear squabs are easier to locate upright in the VW, thanks to bungy cords. The Holden features slippery floor liners that protect the carpet, whereas the VW has smart Canyon-embossed mats. Both of these are a good look.

Peugeot Aug20 V2

We like the Holden exterior, the newer design, but others really like the squared off look of the VW. Inside, the Argentinian gets the nod, as if a Golf interior had been transplanted into a pick-up, except with all the soft plastics having been removed. It’s just a bit classier, especially with the contrasting gold stitching.

There’s a bit more colour in the instruments too which are bigger, easier to read. The thing about the Amarok has always been its engine displacement; at 1968cc it’s the smallest in the class. Compensating is its twin-turbo set-up, but it’s interesting that the 3.0 V6 outsells the smaller diesel by around two to one here. I guess folk figure that for not a lot extra (minimum $6k) they’re getting the most kick-ass TDI midsized pick-up available in New Zealand. And there’s no doubt the 165kW/550Nm V6 offers a whole lot more performance, beating out any other ute by a reasonable margin.

While the adoption of the eight-speed auto helps get the best from the 2.0L TDI engine, don’t expect the outright grunt of the bigger single turbo TDI competition, especially when Canyon’s kerb weight is almost 2.2 tonnes. It’s roughly two seconds behind the Colorado on both performance criteria we use. You’ll need 200m of free road for a safe passing manoeuvre in Colorado compared with 250m for the Amarok.

Where the Holden feels onto it from 1500rpm, and strong across the 2000-3000rpm band, the smaller VW engine likes a few more revs, giving of its best from 3000-4000rpm. In the Normal transmission mode it feels a bit lacklustre so most of the time we drove it in the Sport setting which adds zip. The engine is refined, quieter than the Colorado’s, but it’s not much thriftier because you tend to rev it harder.

On road, AWD and lower profile rubber make it more capable in corners, holding higher speeds, but the steering isn’t as communicative. However, its turning circle is a touch tighter. Secondary ride is slightly more nervy on the thinner rubber, but its primary ride, laden or otherwise is similar to the Colorado’s.

So, as in our 2012 review, the Amarok 2.0 TDI does some things well, mastering on refinement, especially with the eight speed auto, and it has a nice interior, but the Colorado isn’t far adrift and is more laid back, more forthcoming on the go front.

If you really don’t need a 4x4, Colorado Graphite is a convincing package at the price. At $70k there’s heady competition for the Canyon, specifically from all the range-topping Asian utes. If spending this much, we’d pony up for the Amarok V6 instead.

The Stats

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Model Holden Colorado LTZ Crewcab Graphite 2wd  Price $49,990

Engine 2776cc, IL4, TDI, 147kW/500Nm

Transmission 6-speed auto, rear-wheel drive

Vitals 8.99sec 0-100km/h, 8.6L/100km, g/km, 2040kg

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Model Volkswagen Amarok TDI Canyon  Price $69,990

Engine 1968cc, IL4, TDI, 132kW/420Nm

Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive

Vitals 11.26sec 0-100km/h, 8.5L/100km, 235g/km, 2145 emptykg

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